Lab Lessons Are for All Students at Hopewell Junction School

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Jadyn Menuau is an 11-year-old with an understanding of what LabLearner is all about.

“You can experience what you’re learning,” the sixth-grader at St. Denis-St. Columba School in Hopewell Junction told CNY.

St. Denis-St. Columba is now in its fifth year of using LabLearner–The Science of Learning for its 254 students in kindergarten through eighth grade. It all began with an email to Sister Kathleen Marie Gerritse, C.R., the school’s principal.

“For a couple of years, our vision was to have a hands-on science program where we can encourage our students to develop their critical thinking skills, and we were looking at different ways to do that,” Sister Kathleen Marie said. “One day I got an email from LabLearner and I made the phone call. When I talked to them, it was everything we were looking for.”

The LabLearner program gives students an opportunity to grow as critical thinkers by using STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics), and offered all St. Denis-St. Columba students the opportunity to participate.

“That was the exciting part of it,” said Sister Kathleen Marie of LabLearner having programs for students from kindergarten through eighth grade.

“We wanted a program that did it from beginning to end. When we came across this program, it did just that and met the national standards.”

Diana Spera, who has been teaching at St. Denis-St. Columba for 20 years, teaches science to students in grades five through eight. Her science students are in the lab twice a week and spend the other three days in the classroom with their lab groups preparing and analyzing their work. Students use LabLearner workbooks and are graded based on lab assessments and participation, quizzes, and application tests in which they are given lab scenarios and asked to analyze them.

Students in kindergarten through fourth grade visit the science lab once each week with their teacher. Students in these lower grades are separated into two groups, with one going to the science lab and the second to a specialty class.

“For the students, it’s been successful because they’re learning and gaining a skill-set of analyzing, not just measuring and observing, but what we do with those measurements and observations and analyze them to come up with the scientific concept,” Mrs. Spera said. “So they can take that skill-set and apply it to real-life applications.”

Sixth-grader John Reilly welcomes what LabLearner offers students.

“It helps us show, instead of using books, you’re actually physically doing the project,” he said. “It helps you see what’s going on...You can visualize it and see what happens.”

Drew Cornax said the labs the past four years prepared him for his eighth-grade labs, which will set him up for high school this fall.

“The labs help us all a lot with just being able to come into the lab and really seeing the concepts we’ve been studying in science,” he said. “It’s really cool when we go through the trials and we get the end results. It’s really good to see things we predicted come true or even if we get proven wrong in our predictions.”

Tristan Albra demonstrated an experiment being done by third-graders in which they wiped a wool cloth on a balloon to create static electricity, allowing the balloon to stick to a piece of paper taped to a window.

“You’re testing things to make them do things you didn’t know they can do,” Tristan said.

Olivia Enny, 5, shared what she enjoys about her visits to the science lab with her kindergarten classmates.

“Everything,” she said.

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